The Special Olympics USA celebrates the most talented athletes with intellectual disabilities in the United States. Later this summer, that will extend to video games. Xbox is sponsoring the first-ever video gaming tournament at the USA Games in Seattle. The tournament takes place on July 2nd from 1 PM to 4 PM.
While the Special Olympics spans the world, Special Olympics USA spans the United States and takes place every four years. Baseball and the triathlon were introduced in 2014 and gaming is being introduced this year. Phil Spencer, the Executive Vice President of Gaming at Microsoft, expressed his enthusiasm for helping on the Special Olympics USA website as well as welcoming players from all walks of life.
“At Microsoft, we believe that gaming is for everyone so we’re proud to pilot the first gaming tournament at the Special Olympics USA Games this summer,” said Spencer. “Competitive video gaming is enjoyed by players around the world, and our goal with this pilot tournament is to challenge biases and break down barriers while providing an empowering and fun experience for all players.”
Qualifiers were held around the country last month and winners were broken into eight Unified teams. A Unified team has one player with an intellectual disability and one without. These participants will compete in Forza Motorsport 7, Microsoft's 2017 entry in the long-running racing series. Attendees will be able to play Super Lucky's Tale, Minecraft, and Forza Motorsport 7 in "The Fan Zone," which is open all week to the general public.
While placing the Special Olympics USA event near Microsoft's main office in Redmond makes it easy to see why the two entities partnered, it actually looks to be part of Xbox's bigger commitment to those with special needs. Not only did Microsoft sponsor the Special Olympics in 2014, they also unveiled the Adaptive Controller last week. This highly customizable special controller has multiple ports and inputs to help disabled players play games more easily. Beth Knox, President and CEO of the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games, stated her excitement regarding Xbox's involvement.
“Many of our athletes are avid gamers and research indicates playing video games can potentially boost cognitive and motor skills of people with intellectual disabilities,” said Knox. “We are thrilled to partner with Xbox to bring the first-ever video gaming tournament to the USA Games. We hope everyone will come out and support the competitors in this pilot event.”